News / Europe

EU Ministers Discuss Influx of Migrants

Migrants of North African origin who hold temporary travel documents issued by Italy gather near the ring road of Paris April 29, 2011.
Migrants of North African origin who hold temporary travel documents issued by Italy gather near the ring road of Paris April 29, 2011.
Lisa Bryant

European Union interior ministers meet in Brussels Thursday to discuss how to handle a wave of migrants flooding into their countries following the Arab uprisings in North Africa. 

Fading hopes

Near a highway on the edge of Paris, dozens of mostly Tunisian immigrants are camped out in a dusty park, living on sandwiches handed out by volunteers - and hope for a better life in Europe that is quickly fading.

Hamed Ben Garden, 25, is from the Tunisian island of Djerba.  He left Tunisia in February, heading to the Italian island of Lampedusa by boat - and then by train across Italy's border with France.

Ben Garden says he thought France would give him food and shelter, until he could find a job. But he cannot get legal papers.  And without papers, he cannot find a job.

European Union countries are now discussing how they should deal with Ben Garden and roughly 25,000 other North Africans who have flooded into the region since the Arab protests earlier this year.

Tougher stance

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has proposed toughening the 26-year-old Schengen agreement that allows for passport-free travel among 22 member nations, plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway.

In a speech before the European Parliament Tuesday, commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the influx of African migrants highlighted weaknesses in Schengen.  The commission has proposed introducing temporary border controls but Barroso says dismantling Schengen would be a disaster.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso speaks during a news conference (file photo)
European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso speaks during a news conference (file photo)

"I firmly believe that to do so would catastrophically undermine not just what Europe has constructed over the last 61 years, but sabotage the viability of our efforts to build a prosperous and integrated Europe for the future," Barroso said.

Influx of migrants

A joint letter by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi prompted the Schengen discussions.  The two leaders want the Schengen treaty to be modified.  Italy has been the main country hit by the influx of North and sub-Saharan African migrants whose numbers surged following this year's Arab Spring.

Pierre Henry, head of the French immigration support group, France Terre d'Asile, says about half of the African migrants who arrived in Italy this year made their way to France.

Migrants of North African origin who hold temporary travel documents issued by Italy take part in the the annual May Day march in Paris, May 1, 2011. The posters read " we did the democratic revolution", "thanks for the welcome mister Sarkozy".
Migrants of North African origin who hold temporary travel documents issued by Italy take part in the the annual May Day march in Paris, May 1, 2011. The posters read " we did the democratic revolution", "thanks for the welcome mister Sarkozy".

Henry compares their plight to the thousands fleeing across the borders of war-torn Libya into Tunisia in recent weeks.  He says Tunisia welcomed and sheltered these people.  By contrast, he says France and Europe have offered a police solution to Tunisian and other migrants arriving on their shores that he says is undignified.

Anneliese Baldaccini, European immigration expert for rights group Amnesty International, agrees that Europe should be welcoming and not shunning these migrants.

"We would like to see the European Union making a commitment towards governing the situation in a way that is consonant with the values that it stands for - taking its fair share in welcoming people, in receiving them and providing basic humanitarian needs," Baldaccini said.

Political bind

Hugo Brady, a Brussels-based analyst for the think-tank Center for European Reform, says French and Italian leaders who urged toughening Schengen are in a political bind - in part because of the rise of far-right, anti-immigration parties.

But Brady doubts border-free travel in Europe will be scrapped.

"The practicalities of the everyday won't allow for it," noted Brady.  "People value the convenience of being able to travel around Europe without a passeport.  It's a significant achievement that I think very few people will want to roll back. "

Among the Tunisians in the Paris park, Europe's tough welcome has been hard to endure.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid